© 2000 Thomas H. Richardson—all rights reserved
Though tweaked through January 2000, this story was written February 1999, before Hillary-for-NY-Senate rumors, the article about Chelsea in People, Monica’s Barbara Walters interview, Monica’s Story, Juanita Broaddick, George Stephanopoulos’s All Too Human, Kosovo, Monica’s handbag-selling website, and Judge Susan Webber Wright ruling Bill Clinton to be in civil contempt—
—not to mention, this was written before Monica’s Jenny Craig fiasco, Monica’s hosting of the reality-TV show “Mister Personality,” Monica earning a Master’s degree in social psychology, Monica’s 2014 essay in Vanity Fair, Hillary serving one term as U.S. senator from New York, Hillary serving for four years as President Obama’s Secretary of State, and Hillary going zero-for-two at running for president.
Characters of this story are either made up (a few folks), or used fictitiously (most characters). But only a lawyer needs to be told this.
The Funeral of Bill Clinton
by Tom H. Richardson
On a spring day in 2023
Chelsea Clinton O’Rourke, M.D. stood smiling in the entranceway of her father’s Little Rock home. “Thank you for coming, Mister Jordan,” she said to the old black man, as she shook his hand.
“I’m still proud to call Bill my friend,” Vernon Jordan replied. “Unlike”—he glanced at Hillary—“some people.”
It was hard to look fierce when needing a cane, but Hillary achieved it. “Don’t you fault me for—”
“I fault your timing. Filing divorce papers the day after he left office?”
“I was a saint to wait that long.”
Chelsea stepped forward between them as the front door opened, then shut. “Mother? Mister Jordan? Not now.”
“I agree,” Jordan replied. “Chelsea, I haven’t paid my respects yet. Would you please direct me to the mortuary?”
“Or I can tell you, Mister Jordan,” said a woman’s voice from behind. “I’ve just come from viewing him.” Chelsea turned, and saw her.
How dare you, Chelsea thought. Leave his house this instant! Chelsea intended to say as much, and forcefully—until she imagined the tabloid stories. So instead she smiled as Hillary had taught her, and Chelsea said sweetly, “If you wish, Mrs. Rosenberg, your offer is kind.”
“Please, call me Monica.”
While the former intern was giving directions to Vernon Jordan, Chelsea studied her. Monica’s gestures were animated, theatrical. The fog-gray eyes now were behind glasses, and that thick, black hair now was honey-blond. Monica’s figure still was buxom, but now it also was slim and toned. For a woman of fifty, this took work.
“…first viewing room on the left, can’t miss it. That’s a sharp tie, by the way. Good to see you’re looking well.”
Jordan thanked Monica, said goodbye to Chelsea, nodded to Hillary, and then turned and shuffled out the front door.
Monica stepped up to Chelsea, both hands out. “So we finally meet. Please, my condolences; this is a sympathy gift.”
For twenty-five years, Chelsea had imagined this moment, trying to decide what she’d say and do. But when the moment came, Chelsea shook Monica’s right hand, took the gift-wrapped box from Monica’s left hand, made herself smile, and said, “Thank you for coming.” Chelsea laid the gift on the hall table nearby.
Then Monica turned and put out her right hand again. “Ms. Rodham, my condolences. I know you miss him.”
Hillary turned and looked at Chelsea, and that look said You’re letting her stay? When Chelsea made no move to banish Monica, Hillary turned back and snapped, “I mourn many things today.” Hillary’s voice was cold, and she ignored Monica’s hand.
Monica turned back to Chelsea with a somber expression. “May I talk to you for a minute?” Monica glanced at Hillary. “Alone.”
Chelsea led Monica into the study. “Don’t expect my mother to—”
Monica shook her head. “It’s not her I want to talk about. It’s you.”
“The sympathy gift is also a peace offering. I ask your forgiveness.”
Chelsea blinked. “It’s my mother you should ask forgiveness from.”
“Never. But I’m asking you.”
Chelsea crossed her arms. “Out of the question.”
“Please. I’d hoped that after all the years—”
“No. I’m being civil to you, but you brought me a year of hell. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have mourners to greet.”
Chelsea strode out of the room into the side hallway—and flattened her mother. As Chelsea was picking herself up, and helping Hillary to stand, she asked, “What are you doing here?”
Hillary glared at Monica, then her face smoothed into a concerned smile. “Making sure she doesn’t cause us new problems.”
Monica’s smile was catty. “You had twenty years’ head start with Bill. If you’d been a better wife, I wouldn’t have made headway. So to speak.”
Chelsea raised her hands like a boxing referee. “Mother, please act your age. Monica, this doesn’t help you.”
Hillary gave Chelsea that disappointed look. “Dear, that’s no way to speak to your mother.”
Five minutes later, Chelsea was back at the entranceway, learning about George Stephanopoulos’s grandson. Hillary was in the kitchen, being charming to everyone. Monica was in the living room, smiling and trying to converse: “Hello, I’m Monica Rosenberg, what’s your name?/How do you do?/How did you know President Clinton?” Nobody spoke to her even a minute.
When George and his wife headed to the kitchen was when Will and Eleanor O’Rourke joined Chelsea. Will was staring at Monica. “Say, Mom, is that—?”
“Yes. Monica Lewinsky Rosenberg.”
Will’s eyes were round. “And Grandma hasn’t killed her yet?”
“The day is young.”
“Wow. She’s braver than I’d be.”
Chelsea frowned. “Maybe she’s just foolish.”
Eleanor studied her mother. “You hate Monica, don’t you?”
“Not hate, no. But even now I have nightmares, thanks to her. And thanks to the Dear Departed.”
Will was looking into the living room again. “Nobody’s talking to her. Do you think I should?”
“Yeah, I know why you want to talk to her,” Eleanor teased. (Will was sixteen.)
“Yeah, just maybe you do,” Will said. “Maybe you know just what bad women like her do.” (Eleanor was nineteen and in college.)
Eleanor pursed her lips. “That’s not funny, Will.”
Will did walk into the living room, but couldn’t bring himself to speak more than a few words to Monica; Eleanor, meanwhile, had gone upstairs. Chelsea turned to walk to the kitchen, but an unfamiliar blot of blue caught her eye. She looked down; Monica’s blue-wrapped gift sat forgotten on the hallway table.
A minute later, Monica was in the hallway, looking at the photographs on the walls. She apparently had given up trying to chat up the other mourners. Now Chelsea walked up to her, smiled, and said, “The pearl necklace is lovely. Thank you.”
“Aren’t employee discounts wonderful? But you’re not wearing it.”
“Well, I didn’t think it appropriate for a funeral.”
Monica eyed her. “No, of course not.”
There was an awkward pause. Monica tapped the nearest photo. “I remember this picture. David and I visited here five years ago.”
“Where’s David now? You’re having a rough time alone here.”
“He’s on a business trip. And yes, I believe him.”
“I didn’t say you shouldn’t.”
Hillary’s voice came from the kitchen: “Thanks, Tipper. Let me see if Chelsea needs anything.” Hillary appeared in the doorway. “What?”
Chelsea didn’t know her mother could move that fast anymore. Only an eyeblink later, it seemed, Hillary was in Monica’s face. Hillary glared and whispered, “Quit stalking my daughter!”
Hillary spotted the box in Chelsea’s hand. Another angry whisper, this time to Chelsea: “What’s this?”
“It’s a pearl necklace she gave me. Mother—”
Hillary gave Monica another glare. “It’s bad enough you ensnared Bill—now you want to sink your hooks into Chelsea? Leave her alone!”
Chelsea grabbed Hillary’s arm. “Listen, Monica didn’t come talking to me, I started talking to her.”
Hillary looked like she’d been slapped. “You have relatives here; you have presidents here. Michael’s sister and his parents are here. The whole Gore family is here. There are a dozen former Cabinet members here; ditto retired Secret Service. Even Katie is here, your babysitter from Bill’s governor days. Why talk to this kneepad Jezebel?”
Monica glared at Hillary. “You need to hear something.”
“Not from you.”
“I loved Bill, and I believed him my sexual soulmate. Now if you’d given him—”
“Um, Mom?” It was a worried Will standing at the bottom of the stairs. “I know now isn’t a good time—”
Chelsea sighed. “Boy, is that true. What’s wrong?”
“Eleanor was on the phone in Grandpa’s bedroom, and now she’s crying.”
“Thanks, I’ll handle it.” Chelsea turned back to eye the combatants. “I say this again: Calm down. Please. I feel both your pain, okay?”
Hillary eyed Chelsea back. “Dear, whatever pain Monica suffers is not our worry.”
Chelsea walked to the entranceway and turned to climb the stairs. That’s when she noticed a silent throng standing in the kitchen doorway, and a bigger silent throng in the living-room doorway. She pasted on a smile as she yelled, “Show’s over, folks.” For now, she thought.
“It’s okay, Ellie honey,” Chelsea cooed. She was rocking back and forth on the bed, holding sobbing Eleanor.
“Okay? Hardly!” Eleanor wailed. “Mark dropped me for Amy!”
“My hurt, hurt baby.”
“Fine, she’s prettier—shit happens. But I really loved Mark.”
“I know you did, honey.”
Eleanor leaned back, and her wet, red eyes held Chelsea’s eyes. “You don’t know all the story. I loved him Monica-style—I was not a good girl. And then Amy gets him?”
Chelsea went cold inside, but tried to joke: “Then it’s good for him I’ve never seen him. An angry mother wielding a scalpel is dangerous.”
Eleanor started sobbing again, and Chelsea started hugging and rocking her again. But with her expression safely blocked from Eleanor’s view, Chelsea’s face was stunned.
Five minutes later, Eleanor was upstairs repairing her makeup, and Chelsea was in the living room, receiving a hug from Michael.
Michael O’Rourke smiled as he let Chelsea go. “What’s this for?”
“I miss Dad so. Mother and Monica together is a bomb waiting to go off. Meanwhile, Eleanor just lost her boyfriend, and she said something else that upset me. Take your pick.”
Michael nuzzled Chelsea’s curly hair. “I pick you.”
“Mm, I love you, too.”
Chelsea looked over at Monica, who was back in the living room, studying its photographs and being shunned again. Chelsea then glanced at Hillary in the dining room, just in time to see Hillary also look at Monica.
Chelsea touched Michael’s arm. “Hon, would you play host to Monica? Whatever you do, keep her away from Mother.”
Michael kissed Chelsea, then headed toward Monica, as Chelsea went for her mother. Chelsea found Hillary speaking to later First Couple Robert and Holly Hawkins. “…No, she certainly has the right to attend his funeral if she still cares for him. Anyway, it’s been twenty-five years.”
Chelsea smiled at everyone. “Pardon. Mother, I thought you should know: I asked Michael to talk to Monica. Didn’t want you to jump to conclusions.”
“Certainly, I understand.” Hillary turned to the Hawkinses and smiled. “Can you excuse us a moment? I need to ask Chelsea about funeral arrangements.”
Seconds later, Hillary and Chelsea were back in the hallway. Chelsea looked at Hillary in puzzlement. “Dad’s funeral is right on track.”
Hillary was again whispering: “Dear, you’re spending too much time with Monica Lewinsky. Now you have Michael wasting time, too?”
Chelsea certainly couldn’t tell her mother the truth: Michael is chaperoning to prevent a Monica-Hillary thermonuclear war. So Chelsea said instead, “I’m being kind to a fellow mourner.”
“Kindness is fine, dear, but not to her. I’m most disappointed in you.”
From the hallway, Hillary went back to the dining room, but Chelsea walked with her only as far as the kitchen. Chelsea and the Gore daughters were exchanging news when Eleanor walked in. Chelsea smiled; “Feeling better?”
“Yeah, thanks. A lawyer’s at the door; he’s got Grandpa’s will.”
Chelsea stood at the front door a minute later, as the probate attorney was saying his goodbyes. Absently Chelsea glanced into the living room; she didn’t spot Michael and Monica.
When the attorney left, Chelsea started leafing through the will. She’d already been told her father’s funeral wishes, and that she was executrix and main heir. Now she read about copyrights and royalties, bequests, and disposition of personal property. She flipped the page, read the last paragraphs there—
—and muttered, “Thanks a lot, Dad.” She wondered what Monica would say when she found out.
What Mother would say, when she found out, Chelsea didn’t need to wonder at all.
Chelsea then went upstairs, to hide the will under the mattress in her father’s bedroom. Nobody was seeing this bombshell but the heirs and the court. The will hidden, she came downstairs to find Monica.
Monica and Michael, sure enough, weren’t in the living room or dining room. Or the kitchen. Next stop: the study.
They didn’t hear her coming. Chelsea was about to walk though the open door when she heard Michael laugh. That laugh sounded…sexy?
Monica’s voice was sexy, too: “I do know what your life is like. Some of my closest friends have been attorneys.”
Unnoticed, Chelsea peeked in. She saw Michael smoothing his hair and smiling at Monica. “But you can’t count Bill,” Michael said. “Bill wasn’t practicing when you met him.”
“He wasn’t practicing law. Tell me, under that suit, are you wearing legal briefs?”
It wasn’t only Monica’s words that were provocative, but also that saucy, sidelong glance; the inviting smile; and the head toss. All she lacked was the beret.
Now Michael growled, “Legal briefs? Might be. And right now, I’m considering a motion to appeal.”
Chelsea got noticed quickly when she slammed shut the door. “Oh, are you, Michael?”
“Chelsea, honey, it’s not—we were flirting—it was harmless banter.”
Monica nodded. “He did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”
Chelsea stared them both down. “Michael, I’ll talk to you later.” She jerked open the door and nose-gestured him out. With a nervous expression, he left.
Chelsea shut the door, eyed also-nervous Monica, and thought about what to say. Chelsea noted that the bound manuscript for Successes and Mistakes, her father’s posthumous autobiography, lay open on the desk. No wonder Michael was horny.
Monica broke the silence: “Would you believe me if I said ‘I’m sorry’?”
“Again, you mean?”
“I came here to tell you to stay for the reading of the will—you’re mentioned. But meanwhile, keep far away from me and mine.”
When Chelsea stalked out of the study, Michael was waiting in the side hallway.
“Chelsea, honey, nothing happened.”
“I know. I stopped it.”
“And nothing would have happened.”
“I know that, too.”
“You do? Then why—?”
“Her reputation. From now on, you’ll wonder what you missed. Please leave me alone.”
“…Yes, it was a lovely service, wasn’t it? Thank you for coming.” Chelsea shut the front door. Now inside were only the six of them: her, Michael (to whom she was still not speaking), their kids—and Hillary and Monica.
Hillary turned to Monica, and the smile was perfect. “Mrs. Rosenberg, it was an experience we’ll never forget. Have a good trip.”
“Mother, Monica stays until the will is read. Unfortunately.”
Hillary blinked, then she scowled. “You’re a dog, Bill, even in death.” Meanwhile, Monica was searching Chelsea’s face, and looking dismayed at what she saw.
Chelsea brought down the will from upstairs, and directed everyone to the dining-room table for the reading. As she was walking that way, Will joined her. He looked worried.
“Mom, I just did the math, and Grandma and Monica are about to get ugly. It’ll be like a steel-cage death match when they talk.”
“They’ve hardly been sweet up till now.”
“Sparring practice. Look, us four O’Rourkes, we won’t blab to The National Enquirer, follow me? And no reporters are around. We got Grandma and Monica in the same room, and they don’t need to hold back anymore.”
“No need to worry. As Mother pointed out, the hussy’s problems are not our worry. And the slut was totally wrong in what she did, so how can she score points against Mother?”
“Maybe Monica won’t, but she’ll try. Those two are about to talk major mean.”
Seconds later, the six were sitting at the dining-room table. Chelsea was reading aloud, “ ‘…bequeath to Chelsea, except as described below. To my granddaughter, Eleanor Rosalynn O’Rourke, I bequeath five thousand dollars, and my saxophone. To my grandson, William Jefferson O’Rourke, I bequeath five thousand dollars, and my golf clubs.’ ”
Chelsea took a deep breath, braced herself, then resumed reading—
To my ex-wife, Hillary Rodham, I apologize again for the pain I caused you because of Debbie G., Sue Lynn, Sharon, Gennifer, Debbie T., the Razorback Cheerleaders, Debbie A., Paula, Bambi, Debbie F., Sherry, Hillari, “Platinum Peaks,” Monica, Angela, the redhead twins, Debbie J., and Liz. Besides the apology, I bequeath you one hundred dollars, and the bronze presidential-seal bookends.
To Monica Samille Lewinsky Rosenberg, I leave you an apology also. In 1996, I let you believe you were coming back to the White House when I knew otherwise, and in that I was deficient in courage, and I was wrong. In 1998 I made public statements that slighted our relationship for the sake of political expediency, statements which caused you and your family great pain. Again I was deficient in courage, and wrong. As I said years ago, you are a good woman with a good heart and a good mind. Thus I bequeath you also one hundred dollars, and the walnut-and-silver presidential-seal pen-and-pencil set.
Chelsea looked up. “ ‘In witness thereof,’ et cetera.” She was refolding the will when—
Hillary slapped the table. “He screwed me again. His will puts me the same as the bimbo!”
“Bimbo?” Monica said. She added archly, “I was the salutatorian of my high-school class, with a 3.84 average. I suspect I qualify for Mensa.”
“So? Bill didn’t want you for your mind, but for your don’t-mind. You don’t mind oral sex, and you don’t mind phone sex. Apparently you don’t mind boffing Bill, but you never got a chance.”
“Sorry, no points. Right here in Little Rock, January 22, 2001, I consoled Bill after you’d left him. He was worried his technique had gone stale.” Monica’s eyebrow-flash was a smirk. “But I found him still the Leader of the Free World.”
“Yet he didn’t marry you, did he? It took a village of Amazons to satisfy him sexually, but I’m the only woman he married.”
“He was probably scared I’d turn out like you.”
“So eventually you married someone else.” Hillary leaned forward to better stare down Monica. “But your marriage has no joy. You’re terrified that David is cheating on you, right? Because what can you say if he does? Meanwhile, your marriage has money problems, because you work as only a jewelry-store saleswoman.”
“All true, so what?” Monica lifted her chin. “I don’t regret what I did. Between November ’95 and April ’96, I had the best life in the world, and I was in love. And for one beautiful moment, I knew ’Handsome’ loved me. Did he ever love you?”
“I surely regret what you did! Will Bill be remembered for reforming the Democrats’ sacred cow, Welfare? No, he won’t. Or for brokering a peace accord between Arafat and Netanyahu? How about for being re-elected in ’96, when the pundits wrote him off in ’94? Will Bill be remembered for braving the health-care Establishment? No. How about the Family Leave Act, nurturing a dream economy, balancing the budget? Ha. Instead, his write-up will say only, ‘The House impeached him because his girlfriend mistreated cigars.’ ”
“It was only one cigar, one time. Were you that careless of details at your law firm? Details, say, of the Whitewater case? My life was ruined because I was dragged into your criminal investigation.”
Hillary swatted that away. “And you know what angers me most? Bill didn’t lure you in, you started the affair! Later, you copied my schedule so you knew when I was out of town—I feel so wronged by you!”
“Why? You wanted his legacy, I needed his arms.”
“Still, Washington had plenty of single men, you didn’t need Bill. What kind of woman fools around with another woman’s husband?”
That’s when Eleanor took a breath. “Sometimes it’s a decent woman, Grandma. Someone’s daughter or granddaughter.”
The entire family turned to stare at her. Chelsea stammered, “Honey, you can’t mean—is this why we never met Mark?”
Eleanor was staring at the table. “He was married to Amy the whole time. Sorry, everyone.”
Monica’s voice was gentle: “Why did you do it?”
Eleanor looked at her. “Because he was so sexy. He wasn’t like the boys my age, who didn’t know how to act around women. Amy loved him enough to marry him, which praises his personality, right?”
Monica nodded; everyone else looked as shocked as Chelsea felt.
Eleanor continued, “And Mark wasn’t desperate to get into my pants. This made him sexier.”
Monica nodded. “Yes.”
“Meanwhile, he was grateful for what I did. I dressed up for him, talked dirty to him over the phone, I did sex things for him. Twice we made love in a park. He’d always act so grateful, like I’d cooked him a twelve-course dinner. The single guys would just grunt, ‘Do it again, woman.’ ”
Monica nodded again. “Very familiar.”
“We both relished the fantasy of me as the wicked city woman. I liked feeling dangerous, it became a drug.”
Chelsea leaned forward and looked at Eleanor. “So what now?”
Eleanor looked at Hillary, then Chelsea, then Monica. Then Eleanor sighed. “Looks like I move out, take a job in a jewelry store, and hope some other man will marry me someday.”
Chelsea’s heart ached. “No, you’re my child.”
Then Eleanor’s mention of jewelry gave Chelsea an idea. Chelsea opened her purse, pulled out the case with the pearl necklace in it, and handed the box to puzzled Eleanor. Eleanor gasped when she opened it.
Chelsea turned to look into Monica’s eyes. “I’m showing my forgiveness.”